QU to hold event on impaired driving

Tara O'Neill

The university is hoping to raise awareness about drunk and drugged driving, according to Director of Community Service Vincent Contrucci.

The event was originally scheduled for Feb. 3, but is being rescheduled due to the weather.

The MADD mission, according to its website, is: “To end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking.”

The Office of Community Service reached out to MADD for a partnership in hopes of bringing awareness to the Quinnipiac campus, according to Contrucci.

“I wanted an opportunity to highlight the effects of drunk driving and having the speakers from MADD made complete sense,” Contrucci said.

Jennifer R. Owen, walk manager of MADD Connecticut, said Outreach Counselor of Hamden Youth Services Beth Chiarillo was the liaison between Quinnipiac and MADD.

“Our main goal was to provide an outreach program to the students to help educate them on making smarter choices revolving around alcohol and driving,” she said.

Joseph Verducci, a junior, said he thinks the event will be beneficial if students are given real facts and personal stories to leave an impact.

“If [the event] is simple and juvenile, similar to the [Drugs Abuse Resistance Education] program, no one will really bat an eye,” Verducci said. “If QU shows statistics and talks about real life incidents that are caused by drunken driving–or maybe have a speaker talk about their own terrible experience–I’m sure it will help at least a little.”

The event will feature two speakers, Owen said, that are intended to leave a lasting effect on students.

One of the speakers, Skip Church, lost his son Dustin to an alcohol and drug related car accident. Owen said he will represent the victim side and explain how the tragedy impacted his life.

The second speaker represents the side of the offender, according to Owen. This speaker is Robin Cullen, who will speak about the night she killed her best friend in a drunken driving accident. She will address her time in prison and how it changed her life.

Representation from both sides of drunk and drugged or impaired driving is what will truly engage the students, Contrucci said.

“What I think is very interesting about the event is we have a perpetrator also speaking, so we have both sides of the story,” he said. “Very seldom are we going to have the experience of hearing from someone who was drunk behind the wheel, or impaired behind the wheel.”

Verducci said he thinks the event is something the school should have, but thinks the university needs to advertise the event better.

“It’d be a good idea if they send out an informational email about drunk driving with a brief summary of what will be covered during the event,” Verducci said. “Just because I know a lot of people that don’t even go to on-campus events.”

The partnership between Quinnipiac and MADD will not deteriorate after the event, according to Owen. She said the Hamden chapter of MADD hopes to host an event at Quinnipiac every semester to continue to educate students about the dangers of drinking and driving.

“Quinnipiac used to have a very active chapter of SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving)which has not been active for a number of years and is something that I see as a detriment to our campus community and something that is really needed,” Contrucci said.

Sophomore Toni Santillo said relaunching the SADD program might not be necessary because the university provides a shuttle system and taxis are so readily available that it prevents students from choosing to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Contrucci said the SADD chapter at Quinnipiac has not been active because of the lack of student interest. He hopes students will realize the importance of the SADD program at Quinnipiac, with some encouragement from MADD, and will choose to relaunch the program.

Santillo said she hopes the event will spark an interest in bringing back SADD despite being confident not many students would join.

“It’s weird that we wouldn’t have [SADD] anymore,” she said. “It kind of sends the message that the university doesn’t care about students drunk driving. Although I feel like most students wouldn’t join just because everyone knows it’s bad, but people still do it anyway.”

Owen said MADD would be very interested in helping Quinnipiac relaunch the program.

“[MADD] would definitely, 100 percent be interested in re-starting SADD,” Owen said.

Since the university is mid-sized, according to Contrucci, he believes there are students at Quinnipiac who would be interested in a relaunch of the SADD program.

“We have a large number of undergraduate students,” he said. “It’s likely that there are a number of students whose lives have been impacted by drunk driving and may have an interested in seeing something started here at Quinnipiac.”